Tom’s Top 5’s: Albums of 2006

I have little to say about 2006, except that it’s a year from which I own an awful lot of albums and subsequently a year for whose Top 5 I had to be especially choosy. So, let’s nod to some great songs whose respective albums didn’t quite make the cut:

…any of which, were I to write it another day, could slot very easily into the following list.

5. THE LAND OF PURE IMAGINATION (Roger Joseph Manning, Jr.)

The Land of Pure Imagination

It only took Roger Manning thirteen years to come up with a solo album, but it’s a corker, precisely because it sounds exactly what you’d expect a solo album by Jellyfish’s keyboardist to sound like. It sometimes verges on the cartoonish cutesiness of “Sebrina Paste & Plato,” but those moments are washed away in wave after wave of stick-in-your-head melodies and Jeff Lynne falsetto harmonies.

4. TIME BEING (Ron Sexsmith)

Time Being

Ron Sexsmith’s earnest delivery and his remarkable songwriting–tuneful, honest, and forever understated–has won him the acclaim of no lesser lights than Paul McCartney and Elvis Costello. One listen to Time Being and it’s easy to see why. Whether he’s whispering over fingerpicked guitar or crooning over Beatles-esque guitars and rolling electric piano,  his absolute, guileless sincerity is evident in every note and every word.

3. THE CRANE WIFE (The Decemberists)

The Crane Wife

The Crane Wife actually has more in common with two classic progressive rock albums about birds, Camel’s The Snow Goose and Anthony Phillips’ The Geese & the Ghost, than it does with the indie rockers who co-headline with the Decemberists at contemporary music festivals, particularly in the tripartite title track and the indie-prog epic “The Island.” There are times when Colin Meloy’s Gothic, ultra-literate affectations get on my nerves a bit; this is decidedly not one of those times.

2. LET’S GET OUT OF THIS COUNTRY (Camera Obscura)

Let's Get Out of This Country

I turned to Camera Obscura to sate my craving for gorgeous Scottish indie pop after I had purchased all of Belle & Sebastian’s then-extant albums. But while the two bands share many similarities—a love of 60s folk/pop, a pervasively wistful melancholia, wispy female vocals—Camera Obscura are hardly a second-best stopover on the way to the next B&S release; Tracyanne Campbell’s plaintive vocals and pointedly emotional songs deserve to be heard on their own terms.

1. THE LIFE PURSUIT (Belle & Sebastian)

The Life Pursuit

Is The Life Pursuit my favorite Belle & Sebastian album? Hard to say. It might be their rockiest album, drawing on glam and classic 70s rock in a way that would’ve been unthinkable on If You’re Feeling Sinister. I only know that it’s where I entered the B&S fold; and the first album you hear by a band is often the one that sticks with you longest. To this day, I don’t believe Stuart Murdoch has written a better song than “Another Sunny Day.” And that moment where the main theme comes back in on piano two-thirds of the way through “Act of the Apostle II”… ahhhh, who am I kidding, it’s my favorite.

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